The internet is a great enabler of choice, helping us to make decisions about our everyday lives. Oceans of information – to inform, educate and share – are available at our fingertips, wherever, however and whenever. Many of us lap up new fast-moving technology and enjoy the opportunities it brings. However, for some it is bewildering and confusing.
Transparency is therefore key. Choice is only real and effective if we’re presented with all the relevant information in a clear and transparent way. In social media, it needs to be our guiding benchmark. In light of all this, the IAB – supported by ISBA, the Voice of British Advertisers – published new guidelines last week to help a brand or marketing practitioner when paying to promote a brand, product or service using editorial content within a social media environment. You can read all the details (including a short Q&A) here and below is Robin Grant from We Are Social and member of the IAB’s Social Media Council giving a quick overview of the guidelines.
What does this all really mean?
Essentially, the guidelines themselves set out what a brand or marketing practitioner should be doing by law: ensuring that the author or publisher of a marketing communication discloses payment when using editorial content to promote a product or service. The law is over three years old now (and it’s EU equivalent dates back even further). So – in a social media environment (which obviously won’t have been top of mind when the law was devised) – how does a brand or marketing practitioner ensure it complies? The guidelines therefore provide some practical examples of what you may want to consider doing. For example: if a brand owner or marketing practitioner pays a Twitter user (eg a celebrity) specifically to promote a brand, product or service that user should disclose the fact that he or she has been paid to do so by simply including ‘#ad’ within their tweet. As a result, the person reading or engaging with the tweet / message is then clear. Simple.
The guiding principles can stand the test of time but obviously the practical examples will need to evolve as the world of social media moves on. But we think this first step may be helpful in offering some consistency across the market. We welcome all comments and suggestions on this and these will help to ensure we can evolve these as time goes by.